Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Yay! Happy Holidays!

You guys rule. Thanks for stopping by, for leaving comments, for correcting my typos, for guessing as to Cupcake's whereabouts and for being friendly fellow travelers out there in internetland.

Happy Holidays

Cupcake and I are both wishing you the happiest of holidays and the tastiest of new years.

We raise our cocoa cups to you!

- Cupcake & Miss G.

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Food Quote Friday: David Budbill

Purple Grapes in the Hand

Sometimes when day after day we have cloudless blue skies,
warm temperatures, colorful trees and brilliant sun, when
it seems like all this will go on forever,

when I harvest vegetables from the garden all day,
then drink tea and doze in the late afternoon sun,
and in the evening one night make pickled beets
and green tomato chutney, the next red tomato chutney,
and the day after that pick the fruits of my arbor
and make grape jam...

David Budbill from "Sometimes"

More colorful food quotes can be found within the food quote archive.

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Food Quote Friday: Gary Johnson

Mango-Glazed Mahi Mahi

"How simple life is. We buy a fish. We are fed.
We sit close to each other, we talk and then we go to bed."

— Gary Johnson from You made crusty bread rolls...

More simply delicious food quotes can be found in the archive here.

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Food Quote Friday: E B White

black grapes

"We should all do what in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry."

E B White from The Letters of E B White

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On Razor-Sharp Knives and American Endings

As much as I appreciate the so-called "French Ending" in films (i.e. things go bad, then they get worse; there's a brief glimmer of hope... and then the protagonist dies, loses the girl/guy, messes up the heist, gets deported, etc.), I really appreciate the all-American happy ending in my actual life.

So after last weekend's drama, you can imagine how thrilled I was to hear from GINSU® today. Short version: They're not interested in suing Miss Ginsu... this food blog will live on!

You can read the full text below. Hooray for amicable resolutions and level-headed decision-making!

I understand you recently received an email from Ed Valenti regarding use of the GINSU® mark as part of your blog name. Although Mr. Valenti’s email was well-intentioned, I thought it best if you heard directly from the owner of the GINSU® mark.

By way of introduction, I am the Director of Global Operations of Quikut, a company located in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. Quikut is a division of The Scott Fetzer Company, which is the registered owner of the GINSU® mark.

GINSU® is a mark that is recognized around the world, and we are proud of the established fame this mark enjoys. To protect our registration, trademark law requires that we assess the circumstances under which and how this mark is used by others. This brings us to your use of the mark in "Miss Ginsu".

To our knowledge, you are not using your blog to associate yourself with Quikut, to promote the sale of knives, or to otherwise engage in an activity that diminishes the image of the GINSU® mark. As such, under the present circumstances, Quikut is not opposed to your continuing to use Miss Ginsu in the name of your blog. We reserve the right to reassess our position should circumstances change.

We appreciate the disclosure statement that you placed on the blog concerning the ownership of the GINSU® mark, and ask that you revise it to accurately reflect the correct name of the owner, The Scott Fetzer Company.

We trust you will find this to be a reasonable resolution, and we wish you continued success and enjoyment with your blog.


Russell Hougham
Director of Global Operations
Douglas Quikut

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Random Generosity: 24 Days of Delight

December is just around the corner, and I already feel a longing for Leslie Harpold's advent calendar.

For those who missed out on all the fun, writer/designer/web pioneer
Leslie Harpold used to post online advent calendars each December. She filled the days with holiday memories, wacky links and special little surprises.

She wasn't trying to sell anything or preach points or create converts. It was just a series of sweet gifts that brightened a cold, dark month. I looked forward to clicking through to see the daily delights.

marshmallow snowman

Last year, in the middle of December, Leslie's advent calendar simply stopped. I saw the eulogy appreciation for her shortly thereafter on The Morning News.

I didn't know her, but I miss the generosity of spirit that drove her to offer something simple and sweet in which the world's tide of random web-surfing strangers could float in and find cheer.

I've been thinking about that kind of random generosity recently, and in that spirit, I'd like to offer my own online advent calendar this year.

Beginning tomorrow, you'll find Miss Ginsu's Advent Calendar posted in this space.

It's not intended to be a replacement or a replication. Think of it as more of a celebration: 24 days, each featuring a fun, simple thing to make and give, inspired by Leslie and anyone else who offers their talents in the service of random generosity.

Miss G.

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The Cookies of the Dead

Much as I love Halloween, I think the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is far cooler.

A couple of hundred years ago, Halloween held a solid position in the autumn calendar as a religious event. These days, I'd bet a lot of people don't even realize that the "Eve of All Hallows" is supposed to be followed by All Saints' Day on November 1st and All Souls' Day on the 2nd.

Similarly, the Day of the Dead (sometimes called the Día de los Fieles Difuntos) is observed in Mexico from November 1-2. Annual rituals involve activities like cleaning and decorating loved ones' graves and building altars or small shrines that include supremely amusing little skeleton figurines made from paper mache, photos of deceased relatives, crosses, orange marigolds, candles, liquor and food, such as the pan de muerto (bread of the dead).

Dia de los Muertos Altar

While our modern Halloween has lightened its dark roots in favor of overflowing candy buckets for the little ones and sexy cop, nurse, shepherdess, fairy, zombie, etc. costumes for the adults, the Day of the Dead really can't help but remain conscious of the tenuous barrier between life and death. It's right there in the name. More than that, it's rooted in a culture that's apparently more strongly linked to remembrance than candy and costume. And because remembrance is such a personal process, the Day of the Dead necessarily demonstrates a more handmade and individual texture.

Dia de los Muertos Parade

A while back, I visited Tulum and Playa del Carmen on the Yucatán Peninsula during the Día de los Muertos celebrations. Different towns have different celebrations, of course, but Playa del Carmen went all out with an elaborate parade sponsored by the local culture center. It was a stunning carnival of fire and fireworks, undead musicians and jugglers, whirling dancers, springing acrobats and skeletons (both tall and tiny).

Dia de los Muertos Children

Homespun, heart-filled and gorgeous, that celebration was rich with reminders of death, and it made me love life all the more.

You can imagine how ecstatic I was when I found an Alice Medrich recipe for Day of the Dead Cookies in her excellent Chocolate Holidays cookbook. A whole stack of chocolate-vanilla skulls. The accompanying photo was both cute and creepy. I was instantly sold.

When I actually baked them, I discovered that this cookie is little complicated to make and it has about a 50% success rate. By that I mean: Only about half of the cookies are recognizable as skulls. I was initially a little crushed, but then I reconsidered. Even the rejects were delicious and the skulls that work are pretty cute.

Here's my recommendation: Make the cookies and separate them into two piles. Label the rejects, "Chocolate-Vanilla Crinkle Cookies." They're crispy, tasty and excellent with a cup of coffee. Take them to work and give them to your hungry coworkers. The other pile with the more successful skulls are your "Day of the Dead Cookies," and they're cute and crispy and tasty (and also good with coffee). Revel in the fact that they're delicious and imperfectly homemade, much like the Día de los Muertos itself.

Dia de los Muertos Cookies
Spooky, scary or just plain dumb. A gang of tasty skull cookies.

Maya's Day of the Dead Cookies
from Chocolate Holidays by Alice Medrich
(Makes about 3 dozen. About half of them will look like skulls.)

Vanilla Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch process or natural
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar, lump free
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Baking sheets lined with parchment paper

1. To make the vanilla dough, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together thoroughly with a whisk or a fork. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. On low speed, beat in the flour until just incorporated. Form the dough into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Set aside.

3. To make the chocolate dough, in a medium bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Set aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar with the back of a spoon or an electric mixer until smooth and creamy but not fluffy (less than 1 1/2 minutes with an electric mixer). Beat in the egg and vanilla. On low speed, beat in the flour until just incorporated. Form the dough into a log the same length as the vanilla log. If the dough is too soft and sticky to handle, place it in the freezer to firm up.

5. To shape the skulls, reshape each log of dough so that it is skull-shaped rather than round: Make one side of the skull narrow for the chin and jaw and leave the other side wide for the cranium. Wrap and refrigerate the chocolate dough. Form features in the vanilla dough, using the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes for eyes through the entire length of the log. Form the nose with a skewer, poking two holes for nostrils. Form the mouth by inserting a narrow table knife and wiggling it back and forth gently to lengthen and widen the opening. Don't try for perfection: irregular holes make the best and weirdest skulls. Wrap and refrigerate the vanilla dough. Chill both doughs at least two hours, preferably overnight.

6. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the chocolate dough into 1/8-inch slices and place them at least 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. Cut the vanilla dough into 1/8-inch slices and place 1 slice on top of each chocolate slice. Bake until pale golden at the edges, 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking. Slide parchment liners directly from the baking sheets to the rack with a metal pancake turner, waiting 1 to 2 minutes if necessary to let the cookies form up before moving them. Cool cookies completely before stacking or storing. Cookies keep at least 1 week in an airtight container.

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Food Quote Friday: Anais Nin

lush cherries

"For the first time I know what it is to eat. I have gained four pounds. I get frantically hungry, and the food I eat gives me a lingering pleasure. I never ate before in this deep carnal way ... I want to bite into life and to be torn by it."

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977), from Henry & June

Craving more luscious food quotes? Browse more here.

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In space, no one can hear you retch

soylent green
Soylent Green: the Malthusian Catastrophe at its finest.

Ever notice how disgusting the food of the future looks? Food that comes in pill form. Soylent green. Food that comes out of a replicator. It's pure nutrition. Efficient fuel. And food love is apparently an antiquated notion to our descendants. With the exception of Captain Picard's cuppa Earl Grey, there's little to no enjoyment involved in sci-fi cuisine.

The supposedly non-fiction news is no better. Consider vat meat. Bland packaged foods that won't wreck the space craft. Overfished oceans depleted of sea life. Molecular gastronomy advances that produce edible paper menus. Genetically engineered hybrid crops developed, owned and distributed by transglobalmegacorps.

And I guess I'm part of the problem, too, having taken part in a low-budget sci-fi spaghetti western that does nothing but subliminally re-enforce the assumptions that the food of the future is, at its very best, bland, packaged and the color of metal. (In Planetfall, the bar drinks are green and the food either arrives in mylar packets or in the form of shiny silver "space potatoes.")

Like it or not, I'd wager that culturally internalized visions like those revealed in sci-fi and fantasy fiction may, in some way, work to shape our collective futures. It's certainly possible that prescient sci-fi writers like H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Yevgeny Zamyatin and Philip K. Dick only tapped into the trends of their respective times, extrapolating possibilities that happened to crystallize. But isn't it also possible that in the same way individuals use visualization or mantras and organizations use mission statements, a society unconsciously feeds off its collective dreams (films, graphic novels, books, tv shows, etc.) while inventing its future?

I'm not trying to suggest that sci-fi as a genre needs to take up the gauntlet (or pot holder, as the case may be) and lead the media in creating brave new visions for the luscious, fresh, juicy, robust meals of a much tastier future.

And it doesn't need to be writers and filmmakers that invent our culture's dreams for a delicious, sustainable future (and just as a side note, when I say "sustainability," I don't just mean responsible fishing or integrated land management. I'm thinking of the way delicious food is sustainable food. It sustains you physically, mentally and emotionally. Thus, a sustainable diet encompasses meals you want to eat again and again.).

I realize that storytelling is about conflict and drama, not food porn, but wouldn't it be wonderful to see some of the meals of the future depicted in the lush brushstrokes we currently seem to save for our visions of the past? Or are we already too sad and cynical to believe that the citizens of 2050 or 3075 or 3000 would ever sniff and savor and salivate over their suppers?

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Food Quote Friday: Nikos Kazantzakis

Tapas at La Bodegueta in Barcelona
Tapas at La Bodegueta in Barcelona from MissGinsu @ Flickr

"How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness, is a simple heart."

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) from Zorba the Greek

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Hello, Summer! Goodbye, Summer!

Fresh Currants
black currants

Bing Cherries
sweet bing cherries

Sour Cherries
tart cherries

Haiku for a Fleeting Moment

A flash of color!
berries strut in the market's
sweet summer moment.

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A Moment of Tomato Bliss

Anything you're forced to eat over the sink or off the edge of the deck has got to be good eats.

Case in point: the Summer Tomato Sandwich.

My landlord leaves tomatoes and cucumbers on the ledge of my kitchen windowsill. These strange (but very welcome) offerings make their way into my meals in a whimsical, offhand fashion.

The Summer Tomato Sandwich is maybe the most simple, most beautiful of these celebratory dining moments.
1. Take one perfectly ripe garden-grown tomato.
2. Slice fresh-baked bread (my current favorite is the farmer's market garlic-cheese loaf).
3. Slather bread slices with a thin layer of mayonnaise for use as a flavor and moisture-barrier component.
4. Season tomato slices with salt and freshly-ground pepper. Place tomato slices atop slathered bread slices.
5. Close sandwich and eat immediately over the sink, astride the fire escape, or off the edge of the patio. Experience bliss.
6. Lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

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